Yatha Praja, Thatha Raaja!

When I woke up this morning and realised that I am so ill that I can’t get out of my bed, I decided to do all the writing that I had postponed for so long only because I could get out of my bed and do other work. The first of a marathon of blog posts (that I dream to finish by tonight) is about a Gentleman I met a couple (when I say couple, I mean two. Isn’t that what everybody should mean?) of days ago.

16 Nov 2010

Just at the end of a long day at work, Poornima (a wonderful colleague) and I left for Hanumanthnagar, where Mr. Suresh Moona resides. After a slightly claustrophobic drive, we finally stepped out of the car and met Mr. Moona. He was a simple man standing outside his gate waiting for us to arrive. Before I met him, I had known nothing about him (a terrible act considering I was meeting a man of such stature). So, I expected it to be a drab session where Poornima interviews him and I sit there giving unnecessary company.

He walked us into his house and gave us a seat. He sat on a diwan right under the window getting ready to share his thoughts with us (There was a tube of Volini and a bottle of Vicks on the window sill, only a reassurance that he was only a ‘distinguished’ common man). Initially, I was reluctant to even take out a book and write notes (such was my expectation from the interview). But the moment he started talking, I knew I was terribly wrong all the way. I pulled out my little book and a pen and started taking notes frantically. Every word was so meaningful individually and in context. Then began one of the most interesting evenings of my life. A few excerpts here! 🙂

There are so many wonderful lessons of Bangalore history that he gave us. I am consciously abstaining from writing them here as I believe it would be best for one to know it from him. He has written close to 1500 articles for Deccan Herald, TOI and Udayavani in Bangalore. He is also authoring a book presently and I can already vouch for it’s magnificence and relevance. But what I am going to write about are the few notes of culture, faith and humanity he gave us. I am going to write about the additions to my value system that I got from him.

While he was talking (of course in a tangent off the issue we had scheduled the meeting for) about the current state of politics and governance in Karnataka, he said “kaarana naavene” (we are the reason). Recollecting his experiences as a Polling Officer during elections he said “The people who come at 7 in the morning and wait in the queue to cast their votes are people from the nearby slums. The educated middle class casually walks in at 11 and almost never are ready to fight against voter list discrepancies. Parties like Lok Satta could have at least raised their voice, if not win the elections. We deserve what we get”.

Isn’t that so true? We did nothing for the Govt. Not even vote. I am sure there is a (valid) reason why we chose not to vote. Perhaps, no one was worth the vote? Fair enough! But our abstinence did not stop corruption, bad governance, consistently bad infrastructure or anything that we chose to sit at home and fight against. So, abstinence is very evidently not working. (For all those who are pouncing on me to say that you voted and yet nothing changed, all I can say is, keep at it. Take friends along. Democracy works on collective spirit!)

While I am writing down that thought, I recall Mr. Moona saying something similar. He said “In days of Monarchy, it was said ‘yatha raja, thatha praja’ (Like king, like citizen). But in a a democracy, it is always ‘yatha praja, thatha raja’ (vice versa). If people are responsible, the Government will be.” Even after saying this, he does not blame the public for the sorry state of affairs in the country. On the contrary, he believes in the power of democracy. He says informed and participative citizenry is the only means to a powerful democracy. He says research and information should always be disseminated all the way to the last common man. This is the only way we can educate and inspire the general public. As an educated, inspired common man himself, he is determined to take upon him the duty to empower as many people as he can.

In this context, he gives the example of Inayathullah Mekhri who told the Govt of his day that “every citizen has a right (and duty, as a corollary) to contribute to civic amenities as much as he/ she has a right to use it”. This is why Mr. Moona says “Naan Vidhansoudha, Corporation yaar hathrakku hogalla (I don’t go to Vidhansoudha, corporation or anybody else). I see what I can do”.

It was quite late in the evening and almost end of the interview. We decided to take leave and walked out of his house. He came along to see us off. We exchanged thank-yous and bye-byes and got into Poornima’s car. It was an enlightening chat with a man who has seen the sea of change that Bangalore has gone though and remained loving and proud all along. After years of meeting Bangaloreans who crib about Bangalore, this was a fresh perspective. In a world of cynics, the perspective of the hopeful!

Va, Quarter Cutting – Laughs at who we are!

Image Courtesy: movies.sulekha.com

Just as I was writing another post about the film, I realised I was quite noticing PoMo elements in the film through every sentence I typed. Considering Shiva’s history in cinema, I’d be digging too much into the film if I called it Post Modern, wouldn’t I? On that thought, I’ll write in the next few lines what I liked about Va. And a very little about what I didn’t.

What’s most applaudable in the film is the extremely non-linear narrative of a completely linear thought (in an unconventional way). There is no story line. By that I mean there is no equilibrium-disruption-new equilibrium narrative or a good-wins-over-evil structure to the story. It is a platter of a bunch of exaggerated incidences involving predominantly idiotic characters. The film teases the viewer for at least until the interval with a temptation to unfold into a story where something ‘happens’ and there is indeed a point to this film. The moment John Vijay looks at the camera (alright, viewer) and says “Moothram Po”, you realise the second half does not promise the viewer anything to that effect.

The film starts with a monologue (rendered in a manipulated, slightly irritating voice) of various simultaneous occurrences. A queue of evidently unrelated events connected only through the narrators ‘adhe samayathula’ is quite annoying as the opening scene of a (much awaited) film. It could be a risk worth taking considering all these people have already paid to be there. It’s proven worth it the moment the film really starts (or restarts, must I say?). All these incidences are very well weaved into the story. So, when understanding dawns on the viewer, it leads to interest.

SuRa (Shiva) gives a charming start to the idiocy that the film is (I do not mean any offence). Intended as a parody of Actor Vijay, SuRa does not go beyond the name and the few annoying ‘ngna’s scattered around the film (this makes me wonder if they tried real hard to break from being a spoof that Shiva’s earlier film was). Maarthandam (Charan) lives the life of an ‘uncool’ veterinarian refusing to grow beyond retro looks and Cheetah (his beloved scooter). Lekha Washington plays a student dumb enough not to pass her 12th standard exams but smart enough to be dressed in a way that she will be in the news the next day after she commits (self) suicide.

Sub-inspector Singari, the quarter distributing politician, the Anglo-Indian boys who call each other ‘child’, the gambler father-son duo, the dumb (one who can/ does not speak) ice cream vendor, red-sari-clad prostitutes, submissive ass-licking policemen are all caricatured (funnily enough) to suit the flow of the film. Thus, if one calls this a representation of night-life in Chennai, I’d be forced to brush their opinion aside for utter ignorance. Before you get me wrong, I have no problems with these caricatures. Obviously, I was not expecting to see a film that reflects the crudeness of reality. So, caricatures, being what they are, are done exceptionally well.

Image Courtesy: movies.sulekha.com

In fact, these caricatures add immensely to the tone of the film. The colours in the film stand out, bright and attention grabbing. There is a parodical treatment of the retro look done rather subtly adding to the joy of watching it. Much of a Pastiche, is it? Charan’s clothing is indeed adorable. The fact that the film happens in the night only exaggerates the use of bright colours and lighting. The song and dance sequence towards the end (is that a boy’s dance in double action?) and the psychedelic lighting really took me by a pleasant shock!

Image Courtesy: movies.sulekha.com

There’s also enough black humour, though I fear if it was meant to be that way. I’d call it black humour in places where there is a mockery of the Police (sub-inspector Singari), politics (that quarter distributing politician played by Kalyan), law (jail scenes and police chasing scenes), prostitution (and that song), education (Lekha and her parents), faith (Oru Kann Amman) and the list is endless. The sorry state of affairs of the Tamil State is made a mockery of but it could be bothersome that it does not lead to any thinking in the minds of the viewer.

Beyond all that, what makes the film outstanding is the pursuit of something meaningless. The desperation for and a comical pursuit of something that is merely existential pleasure, pretty much making the viewer equally desperate. There are no promises. There is no social message. There is no feel-good ending. What there is, is absurd unconnected unrelated events that happen simultaneously on one night in Chennai. I’d contend that it is not badly made. It is only differently made and perhaps very well!

Ape America!

Today, I was at the Bangalore office of a Technology Solutions company. The office is located in central Bangalore in a tall building in a busy area. The company is a fairly popular one, headquartered in New Jersey, USA. So, I think it is reason enough to believe  (without any prejudice) that they tend to adhere to American standards and follow American practices. I was there to meet a friend’s friend who brought back for me, the phone I forgot and left behind during my visit to the US earlier this year.

I walked in to the building, towards the security desk (which also did the job of a reception desk) and asked them where the lift was. He said, “which office maám?” I told him that I did not know what the name of the company is and I know for certain that I need to get to the 6th floor. The man refused to give me any directions unless I told him which company I want to go to. I made a call and found out. I was going to company ‘N’. He showed me way. I took the lift and reached the 6th floor.

I was met by another security official there who asked me, rather politely, what I was there for. I told him that I was there to meet this particular Gentleman. He asked me to record my details in a register. The columns it had are: Name, where from, who to meet, official/ personal, mobile number, time in, time out and signature. I filled my name without last name or even initials. I left the ‘where from’ column empty. I wrote the person’s name that I was there to meet and marked it personal. I filled the time in details and nothing else. I signed my initials at the end.

In the mean time, the security official was filling some form. He asked me where I was from. I asked what he means and he said ”Are you from Bangalore”? I said yes and he wrote that on the form. He then filled in details of time in and handed me the form and told me in no uncertain terms that I need to get that signed by the person I was here to meet.

Immediately after, he asked me if I had a phone. Well, yes. He asked me to switch it off. I looked at him thinking “I was going to meet someone for not more than 2 minutes”. He then asked me if there was a camera in my phone. Damn, yes. It had to be switched off. He opened the door and led me in. He asked me to wait and left the scene. I met whom I was there to meet and left the place. The security official promptly took back everything that he gave me and let me go.

After giving you every little detail of the procedure that company followed, I have a few questions the answers to which will substantiate my argument that we are brainlessly following American procedures without any thought of adapting it for the Indian milieu.

Firstly, what could possibly be the reason they are asking for my details? Security, may be? In case I take away some valuable information from the company, they will know who I am? Or may be in case I bomb the place, they can find me? Or may be just to keep track of who is visiting who? In all these cases (or any other, as the case may be) they will NOT be able to track my identity. Even under the assumption that I gave all my original details, with only my first name and my city of residence, it is highly unlikely they will be able to find me. Even if they had a picture of mine recorded on their CCTV system, they can NOT get too far.

Next, what is with my phone being switched off? If I intended to take pictures of the place, would I not have a hidden camera in my bag? Or even a pen camera in my pocket? Will I try to conspicuously use my phone? Or do they have their confidential information at the reception desk that I am going to text to a competitor? What’s the logic yo?

Finally, if I had given them false details, how are they to know?

The point I am making here is not the futility of taking visitors’ details. I am not so disillusioned to think no details need to be recorded. But, I do insist on doing it right if there is anything to be done. If you want my name, why not ask me for ID? For reference, why not take down my licence number or any such detail that would establish my ID (very likely I would not want to give you that). But, in case I was a terrorist or a traitor, you would at least know who I am. Why not do it electronically so that I can be searched for in a database, if need be? If it is a discipline issue, to see how many employees have how many visitors, wouldn’t this make more sense?

Are we just following the West? A name and location combination is the States or the UK would generate reasonable search results that can be worked on to find me. In Bangalore, I bet one cannot find my details unless I am already in Police records. In such a case, shouldn’t we at least do a complete job of what we intend to do?

Sadistically addicted playboy!

Just as much as I want to write a blog post every single day, I find myself stuck in a conflict of what to write about. I really do think of so many things during the day and I also want to write about it. And then the thought strikes! ‘Who wants to listen to what I have to say?’ Trying so hard to kill that thought, I come back to visit my blog and some 42 people were actually interested in what I had to say about Endhiran! 42 is a large number you see, considering it’s my first blog post and I am trying to rebuild my network of followers on the blogosphere.

Now knowing that there are people who want to read about things I think, I am going to write about a trend (not so recent but something that is absurd) that I have come to notice lately.

Let’s start with where I got the idea. I am following Barkha Dutt on Twitter (Damn! What was I thinking!). Her introduction says “news addict.” Someone I know is addicted to wordpress. Shruti Hassan is addicted to God-only-knows-what! Just as I got past the weirdness of the various addictions, someone I met today called himself a mobile phone freak! Someone’s a geek, someone a nerd, someone mad and someone else a devil. Am I the only one that notices the negative connotations that all these words possess? Since when is addiction a good thing? Cigarettes or news, any addiction is a disease! How much pride can one take in being mad! Like really! Come on now!

Taking my eyes off my Twitter page and my mind of this thought, I left home to take a ride around the city. (Okay okay. I went to a shop nearby!) Something really interested caught my eye. The rear displays on vehicles. This alone can be made into a whole big blog. I saw this two-wheeler that said ‘if you want to fuck your life, love a girl’. I am calming down the feminist horns that are popping on my head and letting you make your judgement on this one (hard one if you know me!)

Moving on, the number of bikes that have the ugly playboy rabbit is appalling. I knew someone who once said “Even the deodorant I use is playboy. What do you expect?” when he was asked if he had a girlfriend! (If you must know, he never had a girlfriend in his life!) I know someone whose bike said “no mercy”. The boy couldn’t say “no” to save his life. He was the most hurt punching bag I have ever known. Wait a minute! He probably was saying “No. Mercy.” Like “no thank you” in French! Something that he could never say to anyone at work!

The best I have seen till date is a bike that said ‘sadist’ on it. Nothing more nothing less. Just the word sadist written on the glass over the light in the front. In a slant, a font that is quite curvy, size that can’t be more than 10. Strange! Without realising it, I read it out loud and he must have heard me. He had a really embarrassed look on his face. My verdict: He deserves to be!

Apologising very politely for all the people I have insulted (without the intention) in this post, I’d like to reinstate that the point I am trying to make is that these days ‘bad is cool’. I am cool if I were a playboy (the feminist jumps out to say, if a woman sleeps around, she is a slut! Bloody double standards!). Sadism is a trait worth propaganda and addiction is to be proud of!

Oof! I feel like I am a misfit in this generation!

Endhiran, the male Robot!

Endhiran!

When a woman instills impurities in a Robot!

Just as I was hooting and completely enjoying the visual treat that Shankar had cooked up for his clearly defined set of audiences, there was a feminist in me that fought quite hard before losing to Rajni’s charm. I had to let that person out just for the reason that I believe that is my real opinion about Endhiran. I am going to ‘kick start’ my blog with a post in Endhiran – the Robot!

I’ll leave the story line and the graphics and music and all such important details for the qualified critics to discuss about. My experience in film studies and film criticism does not go as far to be able to comment on the screenplay or the techniques. It stays just as low as the underlying (pun intended) meaning that finds a place steadily in our brains while we were too taken away by the joy of film viewing.

A few points that Endhiran nails down our skull painlessly are structured in bullet points below. (Shite! I was trying so hard not to make it known through my blog that I have an MBA. Bullet points did me in!)

– A woman is submissive to a man!

‘If it is a woman, lie her down and fuck her hard’ is the prime moral of the whole film. Through a relatively short Tamil film, Sana (Aishwarya Rai, in this case) goes through a string of rape attempts, all of which in some way or another seem to be an extension of her own “immoral” or “not-woman-like” activities. Firstly, she upsets a bunch of rogues and they take revenge on her (and the man who saves her – read on) by attempting a rape on her. And then she tempts an innocent man who attempts a rape on her and the story goes on and on.

– A woman is the prime cause of all problems!

The film revolves around a robot that falls in love with a woman and thus destroys the world to get her. Irrespective of every other incident, the Robot falls in love when it (he) was kissed by a woman. Had she not kissed the Robot, there would have been no problems. Historically, all Tamil films have been drilling this very concept in our heads. In no particular order (actually in the order of importance), alcohol, cigarettes and women are the three main problems in a man’s life. Because alcohol and cigarettes have no lives and no boobs, they can not dance in front of a man and cause any damage. Women on the other hand have boobs and thus cause all trouble. One other example is the scene where she makes Kalaabavan Mani her ‘one day’ boyfriend. It also reinstates the fact that women invite trouble and men are all saints unless provoked.

– Women have no brains, just boobs!

Just as Vasigaran was a Doctor and Post Doctor and Post Post Doctor with Carnegie Mellon and all over the place, Sana needs a Robot to tell her answers to questions from Ninth Standard Biology exam (which she studies in her MBBS, by the way). This incident in the film is also symbolic of women using men and throwing them away, if we read a little into the trends of Tamil cinema interpretation. She does the same to the once saint Kalaabavan Mani I spoke of a moment earlier.

– A man is a necessity in a woman’s life!

Aishwarya Rai plays with beautiful grace the role of a damsel in distress. As much as I tried arguing with myself that she sought the support of a Robot and not a man, it made no difference to the theory. If a woman is getting raped, no one can do anything but a man (in this case a Robot, who in the end manages to be capable to impregnating her). Thus, a woman needs to be protected and a man alone can do it.

– A woman can not (and should not) think beyond “home”

While Vasigaran wants to use his robotic invention to save the Indian soldiers from dying a meagre death, Sana wants him to draw Mehandi and do her dishes. In a very manly gesture, the Robot ‘saves’ her chastity (and even virginity, considering it’s a Rajnikanth film). But the prime duties of the Robot while with her is to cook special meals, clean up her room, study her subjects and repeat them to her (in more ways than one). Thus, women are selfish and that is how they ought to be.

– Woman is a product for consumption

I can write a thesis just on this theory. Everybody from MGR to Simbu and Dhanush have a tendency to treat women like they are products that are consumed for pleasure and other such reasons. This film, probably because Aishwarya Rai refused to be treated so, uses subtle hints only to get the points across. In Kilimanjaro, the lyrics tactfully written by Pa. Vijay, there is a line that goes “Naan oora vaitha kani. Yennai mella aara vaithu kadi.” Verbatim, it means, I am a soaked fruit, dry me and bite. When I said consumption, I didn’t expect it to turn out so literally! The song pretty much is her plea to be eaten by him and his reiteration that he is the “consumer”.

– Clearly, a woman is a pointless existence

In the pretext of showing Aishwarya Rai as powerful, Shankar has cause immense insult to womanhood. It doesn’t bother me so much because, it is a Rajnikanth film for crying out loud. What else did I expect?

Blogging for the joy of it

After a two yearlong hibernation from blogging, I realised what’s generally weird still remains normal to me. Before I took off to the UK with just my madness for company, I was blogging regularly. I had lots of things to say about a lot of things. I was loud, aggressive and opinionated. Before you imagine I have changed, I must warn you that I am still loud, aggressive and highly opinionated. But you see? Two years have passed and I have grown older, so wiser I would like to believe. That way, my loudness hasn’t reduced much, but I have learnt to hear myself and so stop when I am getting loud. My aggression has sobered down metamorphosing gradually into responsible activeness. I am still highly opinionated. That bit I will show you on this blog! Welcome back! This time around, I will give you a reason to read on.